September 9, 2016
A few months ago Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel described the company as “a camera company.” I thought this was curious for a company only known for creating an app that relied on other manufacturers’ built-in cameras — and for the simple fact that most companies that manufacture cameras don’t even consider themselves “camera companies.” Back in 1994 (when Evan Spiegel was only 4 years old) Minolta changed its name to Minolta Co., Ltd. because it was “no longer primarily a camera company.” GoPro’s CEO Nick Woodman has said GoPro is not a camera company, but rather “the world’s leading activity capture company.” Even Polaroid, pioneers of the instant camera, considers themselves to be “the original social sharing brand” and not just a “camera company.”
But over the weekend Spiegel’s earlier comments began to make a little more sense when he broke the news that the company was taking on a new name, Snap Inc, and was breaking the chains with mobile manufacturers by releasing their very own hardware product, Spectacles. (Well, it makes sense except for the fact that branding it a camera company is narrow and short-sighted, but I digress).
“When we were just getting started it made sense to name our company Snapchat Inc., because Snapchat was our only product! Now that we are developing other products, like Spectacles, we need a name that goes beyond just one product – but doesn’t lose the familiarity and fun of our team and brand.”
Will Spectacles also ship with a super awesome branded Neoprene strap so they don’t fall off your face when you’re filming your kickflips?
Spectacles, as uber-creative the name implies, are glasses with a built-in video camera that can record 10 seconds of hands-free video at a time. And while four-eye filming isn’t new (anyone remember Google Glass?), Spectacles target a whole new audience. They’re not for techies (that was Glass) and they’re not for adventure seekers (GoPro owns that market). Spectacles are for those just looking to have a little fun. Spiegel himself classified the product as a “toy,” and I imagine the shelf-life of these to be on par with that of my daughters’ Sphero BB-8, which was a lot of fun for about a week but is now gathering dust in the corner of their bedroom. That said, Spectacles will likely be on many must-have holiday gift lists for the teenagers and young twentysomethings in your life, and with the $130 price point, it will fit comfortably amongst the Lomo, Polaroid, and Fujifilm Instax cameras in the Urban Outfitters online store.
(Incidentally, Polaroid has a product called Polaroid Snap and just released for pre-order the SnapTouch which comes in more colors than Spectacles.)
The idea and price of Spectacles are novel enough, and from the sounds of it, not a huge risk for the company. Snap Inc is playing it smart by doing a limited release of Spectacles and seeing where it goes. While I am unlikely to become an early adopter (unless of course Spectacles end up on my kids’ Christmas lists) I will be watching where Spiegel and his Spectacles go because of his quote about an early prototype:
“It was our first vacation, and we went to Big Sur for a day or two. We were walking through the woods, stepping over logs, looking up at the beautiful trees. And when I got the footage back and watched it, I could see my own memory, through my own eyes—it was unbelievable. It’s one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it’s another thing to have an experience of the experience. It was the closest I’d ever come to feeling like I was there again.”
“I could see my own memory, through my own eyes” reminds me an awful lot of the season 1 Black Mirror episode “The Entire History of You.” So while Spectacles are fun, it’s a bit scary to think about what might be next.